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Saturday, April 5, 2008
Wenger calls on Sporting Chance to name names

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the Sporting Chance clinic have a duty to name the player who says he accepted a 50,000 bribe to fix a match - and declared anyone found guilty of such an offence should be 'banned for life'.

The Football Association are to investigate a report by The Independent that a player with a serious gambling problem agreed a deal with a bookmaker to write off his debts.

The match is said to have been played in the last two years 'in Britain', but the report did not name the player nor state which league or home nation was involved.

The player, it is claimed, agreed to get himself sent off and persuade three team-mates to pick up cautions in a specific match.

The case was disclosed in a seminar on gambling at the Sporting Chance clinic in Hampshire this week, and the clinic's chief executive Peter Kay confirmed he was aware of the issue.

Wenger feels the clinic - founded in 2000 by former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams to help professional sports people battling addictions - have a responsibility to make details of the discussions public.

'He has to come out really with it because I don't think it is fair,' said the Gunners boss. 'If there is a confidentiality problem, then he (Sporting Chance Clinic) shuts his mouth completely.

'I believe it throws suspicion into our sport that is unfair unless you name the guy.'

Wenger maintained: 'I don't think it is a problem. However, match-fixing is horrible. I never could believe that it could happen here. You want justice to be done. If you want to win the game and you know that the matches are fixed, the sport has no chance.

'For any single case that you find, you have to ban for life.'

Wenger, though, accepts it is difficult to implement a blanket ban on all players gambling, or on certain aspects of the match which have now become popular via spread-betting.

'If you say I bet on the first corner, the guy can say: 'okay corner'. What is a corner? It will not influence the game,' he said. 'At the moment, the gambling exists and it is difficult to stop it.'

Wenger saw first hand the influence of corruption when he coached in France, where his Monaco side were beaten to the championship by Marseille, who were themselves later relegated for financial irregularities and a match-fixing scandal.

The Arsenal manager, though, believes such cases are not rife within the English game.

He said: 'It [gambling] is part of the culture, but it did not stop this country to have a rather clean league.

'Until now I never had a feeling it was not fair - but if that is proven that the guy has sold the game for 50,000 it is a big surprise to me.

'I think it is a one-off.'

Wenger - who worked with both Adams and self-confessed gambler Paul Merson during his decade in charge - reflected: 'It is an addiction as anything else. When you have 100 people, 90 or 95 can deal with the addiction, they play reasonably. Five of them maybe they become crazy and they are ready to sell their wife or all their furniture.'

The Arsenal manager is convinced such issues can affect the performance of players on the pitch.

'When I was a player we played cards and for a little bit of money - but already at that time when I played the money became too high and had an influence on some players,' he said.

'If you go into a game and you have already lost your bonus before you play you could see it affected mentally the players.

'You would prefer for the players not to gamble among themselves before a game because it raises the tension individually. You do not want that.

'Unless I am completely naive, I don't really believe that exists in my teams. Nowadays, more you have every guy on his computer watching a film, rather than playing cards.

'It was before, now I feel it has disappeared.'

Wenger - who came to Highbury in September 1996 - recalled: 'My main priority [when I came to Arsenal] was that everybody should live as a sportsman.

'I was lucky because Tony Adams had just changed at that time, he was a leader here and cleaned up his life completely. Since then, he has showed what kind of results you get from that.

'With Paul Merson it was addiction to gambling and he came out on drugs. At the time he was here with me he was clean because he had just come out as well.'

Players' chief Gordon Taylor has doubts the claims are true, and believes the player involved may have over-elaborated.

Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association said: 'I find it beyond the realms of credulity that a player would approach three others and ask them to get themselves booked.

'We support that clinic and their attempts to get players on track and it is disappointing that something like this should emanate from them.

'I do think in such seminars that stories can get over-elaborated for effect.'

The FA, meanwhile, will now look to establish whether the match concerned took place in England, otherwise it would be beyond their jurisdiction.




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